Friday, 7 November 2014

Smart meters, poor communication.

The link between smart electricity and gas meters, and poor mobile phone signal.

From the end of 2015 until 2020, the government is intending to roll out the installation of "smart" electricity and gas meters to all homes. The cost is currently estimated to be £10.9 billion, and will be born by consumers as part of their ongoing charges. Although the costing estimate expects there to be an average annual saving to households of £26, this will depend on whether the costs are accurate and whether suppliers will pass on their expected collective savings of £8 billion over 18 years.

Smart meters should obviate the need for estimated bills and most meter readings, but in rural areas like much of Arygll there is an additional problem, as information from the meters is sent back to suppliers via a "dedicated and secure nationwide wireless network". Yes, each meter has its own SIM card. This raises once again the whole spectre of poor coverage and the lack of a cohesive approach to the use of radio masts (where wireless network companies do not share masts but erect their own, resulting in both duplication of service and sparse coverage, not to mention inefficient use of financial resources).

One can easily see scenarios where meters are located at low height in cubby holes and partially or wholly shielded from radio reception by masonry or metallic objects. The signal from the meters could be so degraded as to be unuseable, so it's back to estimated and manual readings for those locations. Surely the issue of mobile telephony coverage needs resolving before smart meters that depend on it are installed?

Although 2020 is the target for every home to be fitted with a smart meter, consumers are not obliged to have one. Security is such a concern that the standards proposed by the government are very high, and review in the light of global security threats is to be ongoing. Although householders will be compelled to allow monthly energy consumption data to be provided by the system, they can withold permission for the use of their data over shorter periods such as hourly or half-hourly. In the interests of their own data protection, many people may choose not to have them.